Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What I've been doing for three months since we discovered we had critters in the house

This post is a long time coming. I'll try to keep this as concise as possible. Back at the end of October, just before Halloween, we noticed mice had made their way into the basement. Specifically they had found their way into bags of chips and cereal we had on shelving in the laundry room. I set some traps just as I had in the past when we saw any signs of critters. I've grown used to mice getting in our house that was built in 1900. Add the fact our winters are cold, we have chicken, bees, fountains, and a large garden and I've actually come to expect it.

These are mouse tracks in and out of our house near the back deck. The snow helped us locate an entry point. The snap traps left outside caught a pair in a week or so, but we still heard noises and something nibbled a hole in a hose in the washing machine (soaking the laundry room floor).

Then I found some holes in the walls behind the shelving where we had stored some food (in the little nook to the left of these stairs). So I started ripping apart the plaster and lathe walls.

Once through, I found an 'L' shaped crawl space. It's void under the landing and stairways in the basement. It was a dirt floor strewn with rocks, chips, frosted mini-wheats, and random debris including several Hamm's bottles and cans.

Under the landing, the 115 year old wood showed signs of rot, water damage, insect damage.

Here is a photo to give you a better idea of where the crawl space is. It's below the landing (that is also the entrance to the basement slide) and stairway that leads to the laundry room (to the left) and basement. It is under the slide where we had a futon piled high with stuffed animals.

The day I took this photo I happened to go get Eloise one of those stuffed animals and happened upon a crime scene of sorts. I could tell a critter was sleeping under the stuffed animals. It had left droppings and decapitated a few smaller stuffed animals and pulled out their stuffing. The size of the droppings were a bit alarming to say the least.

Meanwhile, Christina and I were moonlighting as appliance repair specialists

Despite already fixing the washing machine prior, we had more flooding and hose chewing.

I spent an evening at an Uptown laundromat watching the Latin Grammy awards and I finally relented my stance and gave into Christina's pleas to hire a professional pest control service. In the meantime though, Christina's dad kindly did our laundry for close to a month.

Prior to their arrival (as they were booked out several weeks) I cleaned out the crawl space and dug out about 4" of rock and dirt. Above you can see one of several holes I found leading under the basement concrete slab.
So I did some research and purchased 1,000 pounds of quikrete.

...and I spent an entire day mixing, then pouring a new floor .

SM ♥ CM 2014

With the floor done, I began reframing the crawlspace with new pressure treated lumber.

Eloise and Harriet seemed to enjoy the increased visits to Home Depot and Menards. Around this time, I decided I could either A) leave the crawl space empty and rebuild the walls, B) leave it open and use it for storage (albeit awkward to access), or C) rebuild the walls and close it off from the laundry room, but cut an access point from the other side, under the slide.

I decided on C and begin work on what has become known as the kids' hideout. I started out by grinding off any exposed nails and cutting off wood that served no purpose and anything that might be dangerous.
Then I sanded down the entire inside. On the foundation wall (opposite this photo) I installed rigid foam insulation between the framing and by request of Harriet devised a plan to install a rainbow wall.

Spray painting was a bit problematic in the zero degree weather at the end of 2014. So I prepped a little painting area on the porch.

Then I moved the pine planking indoors to dry just before the paint had a chance to freeze.

Here is the wall after installation of the electric (outlet, switch and two light fixtures) and planking.

I added shelving before closing it off from the laundry room.

I got a 1/2" carpet pad and used remnants from the existing basement carpet to cover the concrete. Then I added molding and trim around the entry, parts of the flooring and walls. Turned out pretty great!

For Hannukah we got Harriet a set of glow-in-the-dark stars. She was an enthusiastic helper when it came time to put them on the ceiling. We've also added clips so she can hang her artwork.

It's difficult to get a good sense of the room in one photo. It fits our family and could probably accommodate 5 small kids.


Oh, but we're not done. A couple weeks before the completion of the hideout, and just after scheduling the pest control appointment, I decided that we needed access to the crawl spaces under the first floor bathroom and back entry area to ensure that this company actually took care of the issue. They told me when I called to schedule that they couldn't guarantee their work if there were places they couldn't inspect.
The piping on the top left goes from the laundry room via a crawl space to the bathroom upstairs. I put down some tarps and protected what I could and started to chisel away the foundation. I wasn't getting very far.
So I hired a guy to jackhammer through the 20" foundation. A few hours of work left a larger hole and a half ton of concrete on my floor.

The crawl space. So exciting, isn't it!? To the right was another foundation.

So of course a second access point had to be made. When the pest control folks finally arrived, they were complimentary of the measures I had taken. After inspecting the foundation from the outside, they confirmed we had several spots mice and rat(s) [YES! they confirmed we had at least one rat sleeping on our basement futon and gnawing through our washing machine] could have gained access. They filled all those spots with what appeared to be a giant roll of steel wool. They also set traps and bait stations outside and inside the crawl spaces.

A couple weeks later I hired the same insulation company that insulated the crawl space under the family room to come install closed cell spray foam in both of the crawl spaces. They again could not reach the entire crawl space due to the plumbing under the bathroom. Above is post-spray foam in the larger crawl space.
Nevertheless, the smaller of the two crawl spaces (above) was super cold prior to the insulation and this should help keep things warmer in the basement and kitchen area.

Now to cover the holes in the laundry room wall.  I added framing and placed rigid foam to further insulate.
Then I put more pine planking in. We're still deciding if we'll paint it all white, but at least we no longer have to look at the giant holes.

Writing all this has reminded me just how exhausting this has all been. On the bright side, we haven't had any evidence of any critters in a month and the girls have a sweet new hideout.


Jennifer said...

HOLY COW, that is an exhaustive project, but talk about making something awesome in the end! That hideout is super cool!

laehmc said...

we have gotten critters every winter..so i put pellets in lots of hidden space. I don't want Shayns getting at them.. i do rid all the critters with a total of a dozen packs. They eat in and then i replace...until no more is eaten! but it is a seasonal job, but it has worked. they find new places to come in so the poison works the best. You are doing an amazing job in your home..and the girls look great in the photo's. they are learning lots accompaning you and watching you! please give all a big hug and kiss from me!